More than 400 accordionists from across North America and Europe arrive Wednesday in Charm City for the American Accordionists’ Association annual festival, taking place over four days at the Sheraton City Center Hotel. The event includes performances open to the public. Woo-hoo!
Okay, I’m kidding a bit with the “Woo-hoo” stuff. But seriously, the accordion remains greatly under-appreciated in my book. Vaguely recalling Lawrence Welk as a kid, not to mention a few Italian and Polish weddings, I admit, I was never much of an accordion fan — until about 7-8 years ago when I caught the German film, Schultze Gets the Blues. It’s about a retiring German miner and part-time accordion player who plays traditional polkas — until by chance he discovers Zydeco. You can watch the trailer here.
Long story short, Schultze, who doesn’t speak English, ends up in Texas and then Louisiana, in the Bayou, immersing himself in his newfound culture and embracing its music. The picture won "Best film" at the Stockholm Film Festival and the music rocks.
More than several indie bands have also been embracing, well, at least incorporating, the accordion into their music, including Arcade Fire, Beirut, the Decembrists — on their Mariner's Revenge Song, for example — and most notably, the gypsy punk outfit Gogol Bordello.
Didn’t sound like there’ll be a lot of gypsy punk accordionists busking around town the next few days, according to Frank Busso, who handles P.R. for the American Accordion Association. But he says the public is welcome to attend Friday evening’s Gala Concert at the Sheraton ($25) as well as performances by the Junior Festival Orchestra and Youth Jazz Ensemble Saturday between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., which will also feature local, young, flute, sax, trombone, and trumpet players who will be rehearsing with some of the accordionists over the next few days.
Here’s one more YouTube link, to a local accordionist busking in Fells Point a few years back.